But Friday night’s match against Perry Hall at Loyola University turned into something else completely, as the Gators never trailed in a 4-2 final.
“We came in preaching defense and I thought we defended well, just great offense from them tonight,” Whitman Coach Greg Herbert said. “I expected a tight battle, and it ended up being a really tight, exciting game. I just didn’t expect six goals in a championship game.”
It was the most goals conceded all season by Whitman, which was going for its third state title in six years.
After the Gators (17-3-0) took a 2-0 lead just after halftime, Whitman rallied back.
In the 65th minute, freshman defender Grace Li got the Vikings (15-2-0) on the board off an assist from Morgan Wiese. Three minutes later, Wiese got a free kick outside the Vikings’ box. The senior served up a ball deep enough to draw the goalkeeper out but not to the point where her teammates couldn’t make a play on it. In the ensuing scrum, senior Sophie Nichols knocked the ball in to tie the game.
“We knew that set pieces were pretty dangerous for us, so I just wanted to send a good ball in,” Wiese said. “Sending it into the box we’re dangerous every time.”
But Whitman’s comeback opened up the game, and Perry Hall kept pushing.
“In any game, we’re not going to slow up; we’re trying to score more and more and more goals,” Gators forward Phoebe Canoles said. “We’re not there to win a game, we’re there to make a statement.”
Senior forward Kara Dietrich scored two goals late in the second half to ice Perry Hall’s victory. The Vikings had a potential third goal waived off because of an offside call in the final minutes.
“To go down two goals — two great goals — the team could’ve easily packed it in,” Herbert said. “But in the second half we really put that team on their heels.”
It seemed all the momentum was with the Vikings following their comeback, but Dietrich’s first goal stunted that progress and stunned the Whitman crowd still joyous from the boys’ soccer championship earlier in the night. Dietrich’s second, an improbable, curling shot from the side of the box, was a ball so perfect it made Perry Hall seem destined for its first state championship.
“We had a couple of comebacks during the season. We know how to come back,” Whitman senior defender Molly Knox said. “And after scoring two goals to tie it back up our energy was way up. We had the energy to do it, we just didn’t follow through.”